• Background




Troubleshooting Breastfeeding Concerns

Sore Nipples

Some mothers never experience any nipple pain at all, but studies show that the majority of women in the US and other western countries do have some nipple pain in the beginning.  An experienced breastfeeding counselor and/or IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) can help you tell the difference between this typical nipple pain and a problem.

Typical nipple pain that does not usually indicate a problem:

  • Latch-on pain that lasts no more than 30 seconds into the feeding. This is often described as mild pain or discomfort, but since the pain sensation is very subjective every mother experiences pain differently–some mothers feel more severe pain. The pain should not continue through the entire feeding, and there should not be pain between feedings.
  • Pain usually peaks around the third day after birth, and is gone within two weeks.
  • There is no skin damage – no cracks, blisters, or bleeding.
  • Your nipple should look the same before and immediately after the feeding – not flattened, creased or pinched.

Get help from an experienced breastfeeding counselor and/or IBCLC if you experience the following:

  • Intense, excruciating pain
  • Pain that continues through the entire feeding
  • Pain between feedings
  • Pain that continues past the first couple of weeks
  • Skin damage–cracks, blisters, or bleeding

Tips for healing if you have sore nipples:

  • After feeding, apply a few drops of your own milk to the sore area and allow time to air dry before closing your bra. Immunities in your colostrum and milk have healing properties.
  • Apply a small dab of purified lanolin ointment after each feeding.
  • Choose a cotton fabric bra and loose cotton shirts that allow your skin to breath. Avoid nylon or lace fabric bras and tops during the early weeks of nursing.
  • Change nursing pads frequently if wet. 
  • Choose foods that are high in protein to help with healing and build new skin tissue.  Drink plenty of water to keep your skin well hydrated.
  • Continued soreness may be due to improper positioning and/or a latch-on that usually can be corrected. Do not let the problem get worse, contact a breastfeeding professional as soon as possible.

If the problem persists, consider having your baby evaluated for a tongue-tie or dysfunctional suck.  If the lanolin ointment doesn't heal the area, discuss with your physician or nurse-midwife.